Don’t Let Your Expectations Push Away Your Adult Children

By Marci Seither
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
joshuaraineyphotography/iStock/Thinkstock
We no longer get to make the "right" decision for our adult children. But we can keep our expectations from planting seeds of bitterness that may eventually overflow into our relationship with them.

What?

I stared at the monitor. Maybe I had misread the private chat from Emma, our soon-to-be married daughter. Adjusting my glasses, I read it again. She wrote, “Thomas is wearing flip-flops to our wedding. We have talked about it. It has been decided.”

Flip-flops? The ceremony wasn’t a luau. What were they thinking? I typed a snarky retort back, “Your dad is going to walk you down the aisle in a kilt. We have talked about it. It has been decided.” He didn’t, of course.

When the big day arrived, I walked past rows of friends and family who had gathered to witness the exchanging of vows. Thomas stood at the front. His suit was pressed, his corsage was properly pinned — and he was wearing flip-flops.

My expectations for appropriate shoes on at a wedding day were not met. But seven years later, Thomas and Emma are still happily married, are living in their first home and have welcomed their second child into the world. Most of the time, Thomas still wears flip-flops. And over time, I have learned to better balance my expectations with what is none of my business.

Their choice

I should have acknowledged that what my soon-to-be son-in-law wore at his wedding was his and my daughter’s decision, not mine. And I definitely should have kept family matters more protected and private, instead of posting my snarky kilt response on Facebook.

Sherry Collier, a licensed family and marriage therapist, advises parents, “We should think in terms of seeking to understand what emotions or needs may be motivating our adult child’s choice. We can do this by asking questions out of caring curiosity and then actively listening.” Collier says that once we understand our young people’s motives, “We can either choose to remain silent or prayerfully respond with information they may find helpful.”

Your support

When our son Mark and daughter-in-law, Aarika, informed us that they would move 500 miles away for a job, I cried. Our youngest son, Jack, was in high school, and I loved that Mark and Aarika were close enough to come to his football games, stop in for dinner or have us over to their apartment.

But this was their decision, and it couldn’t be based on what would make my husband and I happiest. Instead of focusing on the things we were no longer able to do together and my disappointment, I chose to be thankful for the moments we have had with them. Once they left, I sent them pictures of Jack’s games so they wouldn’t miss out on the fun.

Your choice

Trying to convince or guilt adult children into making different choices is no way to maintain a healthy relationship with them. In fact, those kinds of interactions could result in long-term resentment. Collier says, “Our adult children can pick up on the motivations behind our verbal and nonverbal responses to their choices. Before we respond at all, we need to take a little time to calm ourselves, breathe, pray and remind ourselves that our long-term goal is to create mutually loving and respectful relationships.”

We can’t tell them which shoes to wear, where to work or where they can live. But we can extend grace for decisions that are different than ours. After all, we want to make our own choices. And adult children need to make theirs.

Copyrighted ©2018 by Marci Seither. Used by permission.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Marci Seither

Marci Seither is a freelance writer who has published hundreds of articles, op-ed pieces and human interest stories. She has authored two books titled The Adventures of Pearley Monroe, an award-winning work of historical fiction for middle-grade readers, and Empty Nest: Strategies to Help Your Kids Take Flight. Marci and her husband, John, have six children and reside in Southern …

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.